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The Proverbs of Solomon:
CONTAINING SUNDRY WISE OBSERVATIONS, MAXIMS, AND PRECEPTS, chapters Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16.
Here begin the PROVERBS proper, the “nucleus of the book.” What has preceded is the introductory discourse or lecture. There is no difficulty in regarding the first nine chapters as one composition. If actually read, it would not be too long for one occasion, and the various parts are about as well connected as in the most of our modern lectures. Indeed, the unities are well preserved. It is possible that the first six verses of chapter first, which contain the title and preface, may have been prefixed subsequently to the composition of that admirable introductory discourse, and of the whole work. The remainder of the book is of a different character and form, especially from Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16. We have no longer a train of continued thought running on from verse to verse, but nearly every verse is independent of that which precedes and of that which succeeds. They might in general be inverted and transposed at pleasure, without any material injury to the sense, or diminution of the effect of the whole. They were divinely intended to form the Hebrew character to prudence and integrity by the principles of universal morality, and so are suitable for all times and peoples.
It, is not probable that all these Proverbs were original with Solomon. Many of them were, doubtless, the results of his own observation and experience; but others, perhaps long in use, were gathered from other sources; being, however, such as his judgment approved, he gave them a place in his collection.
It is the opinion of some critics that Solomon did not write, but spoke the proverbs, and that they were taken down in writing by others, at different times; that from the various collections thus made by different scribes of the three thousand proverbs which he spake, (compare 1 Kings 4:32,) those contained in this book are what were deemed worthy of preservation for after ages. They seem to have been arranged, by Solomon or others, chiefly according to their form, in two separate volumes, rolls, or memoranda, one of which extends from chapter x to chapter xv, inclusive, and which consists almost exclusively of antithetic parallelisms; the other, from chapter 16 to Proverbs 22:16, which consists chiefly of synthetic parallelisms. Every verse, in both parts, makes a complete sentence. There is rarely even a similarity of subject in two successive verses. Even the two parts of the same verse seldom so run into each other as to form a compound sentence, in which one number is dependent on the other. There are a few exceptions to this in the 20th chapter. This is altogether different from the method of the first nine chapters, and is not so rigidly observed in what follows Proverbs 22:16.
1. A wise son… glad father Gladdens his father.
A foolish son כסיל , ( kesil.) The radical idea is that of dullness, stiffness, grossness, rudeness; when applied to the mind, as here, it is the opposite of that refinement, culture, and intelligence, or the capability of them, which חכם , ( hhakham,) wise, implies. It has been suggested that the idea lies half concealed in the verse, that a father, in general, is better qualified to appreciate the mental qualities of a good and wise son, and the mother is more affected by the grossness and rudeness of an evil and foolish one.
This is not wholly improbable, yet too much stress is not to be laid on these niceties, which seem to overlook the nature of the Hebrew parallelism. Comp. Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 17:0; Proverbs 25:23-24. For the expression heaviness, compare Proverbs 14:13; Proverbs 17:21; Psalms 119:22.
1. Through desire a man, etc. Wonderful are the diverse translations of this proverb, and of the senses attributed to it. The explanation of this fact is, that it contains several obscure words, of which the sense, at least in their present collocation, is uncertain.
Having separated himself נפרד , ( niphradh,) separated, or are separated, which is the subject of the sentence, though certain enough in its etymology is here uncertain in its use. It may be used to denote separation in either a good or a bad sense.
Intermeddleth In respect to יתגלע , ( yithgalla’h,) rendered, “intermeddleth,” the sense is obscure, and admits of various meanings. Thus in a bad sense Stuart gives, as the sentiment: “Selfishness is apt to become exclusive and supreme, and to break all bonds to gratify itself.”
Conant reads: “He that separates himself seeks his own pleasure; against all good counsel he is embittered.” Some prefer the good sense. Thus Dr. A. Clarke: “He who is separated shall seek the desired thing, (the object of his desire,) and shall intermeddle (mingle himself) with all realities, or all essential knowledge.”
2. May discover itself בהתגלות , ( behithgalloth,) he will take pleasure in uncovering his heart; his chief pleasure is to hear himself talk, in doing which he discloses his folly. Of course it is not his “desire” to make his folly apparent, but such is the result of his conduct. In Proverbs 20:19, the same word is rendered revealeth. Compare Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 13:16; Proverbs 15:2.
3. Ignominy Usually rendered, shame or dishonour. The idea probably is, that contempt follows wickedness, and reproach comes along with an ignominious or shameful act. (Comp. Proverbs 11:2.) “Reproach along with shame.” Conant.
4. A flowing brook A gushing stream. The clause may be rendered: “The words of a man’s mouth are a gushing stream, a fountain of wisdom.” Though it is not expressed, the proverb implies (see second clause) that the words are those of a wise man, from whose mind, as from an inexhaustible fountain, flow continually excellent lessons of instruction. Comp. Proverbs 10:11; Proverbs 20:5; Ecclesiastes 7:24.
5. It is not good That is, it is bad, wrong. (See on Proverbs 17:26.)
To accept the person Or face; to show partiality to the wicked on account of his wealth, respectability, or other like reason. (Comp. Proverbs 19:15; Deuteronomy 10:17.)
To overthrow… in judgment In a judicial proceeding. Compare Proverbs 17:15; Isaiah 10:2; Proverbs 17:23; Proverbs 24:23; Psalms 82:2; Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 16:19, last cause.
6. Enter into contention Engage in a quarrel; perhaps the quarrel of others may be intended.
His mouth calleth for strokes He provokes a blow on the mouth, and gets it for his intermeddling. Or it may merely mean, that he deserves it. Comp. Proverbs 19:29.
7. Snare of his soul Or life. His language endangers his life; and, in a higher sense, his soul also. Comp. Proverbs 10:14; Proverbs 13:3. For the figure snare, comp. Proverbs 2:13; Proverbs 13:14; Proverbs 14:27.
8. Words of a talebearer Of a whisperer, slanderer, Proverbs 16:28.
Are as wounds כמתלהמים , ( kimithlahamim,) dainties, sweetmeats. So Gesenius, Conant, etc. Some read, are “sportive ones.” There are various other readings. The word occurs only here and in Proverbs 26:22. The sense dainties is probably to be taken. The going down into the innermost parts is to be applied to the person who listens. He swallows the tales greedily, like sweetmeats. The expression may refer to that relish with which many listen to tales of scandal. Comp. Proverbs 20:27.
9. He… is brother Both courses lead to the same end, poverty; the one does not make what he ought, and the other destroys what is made.
Great waster Literally, master of destruction; destroyer. Comp. Proverbs 28:24.
10. The name of the Lord Meaning himself, as he is revealed to man in his faithfulness, love, compassion, power, etc. “The name of the God of Jacob defend thee.” Psalms 20:1.
Is a strong tower He is a sure defence and hiding-place.
Is safe Literally, is set on high, that is, out of the reach of enemies. Towers were built on high places that they might be unapproachable by enemies. Compare Proverbs 29:25; Psalms 18:2; Psalms 18:33; Psalms 27:1; Psalms 144:2.
11. Man’s wealth… strong city This and the preceding proverb may have been placed in juxtaposition to exhibit the different objects of trust which men have. One makes Jehovah his fortress; another trusts in uncertain riches. Which is the safer? Compare Proverbs 10:15.
12. Compare Proverbs 15:33; Proverbs 16:18. They are the same in substance.
13. Answereth… before he heareth This proverb condemns the bad manners of those who catch words out of a person’s mouth; the bad policy of those who express an opinion before they hear the state of the case; and the bad morals of those who give judgment before they hear the whole of a cause.
14. Sustain his infirmity Literally, sustains his disease.
A wounded spirit Or, smitten or broken spirit, “spirit of upbraiding.” Miller.
Who can bear That is, no one can. A manly spirit may bear up courageously under severe bodily sickness and pain; but if the mind itself is smitten and discouraged, the body sinks under the weight. It may refer to an upbraiding conscience; who can stand that? The Septuagint has this singular version: “A wise servant calms a man’s anger; but a faint-hearted man who can endure?”
15. Getteth knowledge Comp. Proverbs 14:33 to Proverbs 15:14. “Wisdom gathers wisdom… A wood gathers wood, like all vegetable growths. A sinner stands like a blasted oak; but a saint not only lives by growing, but grows by living.” Miller.
16. Maketh room for him Obtains for him greater liberty and privileges. In the East it has ever been the custom to bring presents to nobles and princes. They expect it, and it is ordinarily the only way to get an audience with them. See Land and Book, vol. ii, pp. 28, 369.
17. First in his own cause Or suit; he who gets the first hearing.
Seemeth just Hebrew, is just makes himself to appear just or righteous.
His neighbour cometh… searcheth In presenting his testimony and in arguing his cause, he revealeth what the other had concealed in his statement, and so the appearance is changed. “ Audi alteram partem [Hear the other side] is an equitable rule in every matter; and the text is particularly important to judges and jurors as a caution against making up their minds in a case till they have heard the evidence and pleadings on both sides. In common life great injustice is often done by the credit that is given to one-sided statements and prejudiced representations.” Muenscher.
18. The lot… cease Some read this in connexion with the preceding verse, and think that it justifies and perhaps it does the use of the lot in some legal cases, as well as in others. The use of the lot is not prohibited in the Scriptures when employed on proper occasions and with proper motives. Its use is even enjoined in some cases, and holy men have practised it. But it should not be used superstitiously, nor in order to “tempt God,” as the Scriptures say; nor when there are natural means of knowing what needs to be known, as by the use of our reason and the teachings of science and religion. God cannot be expected to dispose the lot to meet the demands of folly, wickedness, or superstition.
Parteth between the mighty Settles a dispute between strong men, which might otherwise lead to blows or war. Instead of the lot in the first clause, the Septuagint has, singularly enough, “the silent man!”
19. A brother offended Estranged, because of some real or supposed wrong done him.
Harder… than a strong city Some versions and critics give a different reading of this proverb, thus: “A brother assisted by a brother is like a fortified city, and their decisions like the bars of a castle.”
Coverdale thus: “The unity of brethren is stronger than a castle, and they that hold together are like the bars of a palace.” These readings are not in accordance with the present Hebrew text, but are supported by the Septuagint, Vulgate, etc.
20. A man’s belly… fruit of his mouth A man’s words frequently determine his future for good or evil.
Satisfied Satiated, or filled with the fruits of his own discourse. “There is here a paradox in the form of statement. A man’s belly is to be filled, not, as is usual, by what he puts into his month, but by what comes out of it.” Speaker’s Commentary. Compare Proverbs 12:24; Proverbs 13:2; Proverbs 14:14; Matthew 12:37.
21. Power of the tongue Hebrew, hand of the tongue. Many men lose their lives by incautious words; others, by using prudent words, save their lives. False accusations and false testimony sometimes destroy men. Truthful testimony and wise pleading save others. The latter clause is understood to mean, they that talk too much shall suffer for it; or, he that employs it much will experience the effect of its use or abuse.
22. Whose findeth a wife The versions and interpreters generally supply the word good before wife. But others assert that this makes it a mere truism. Dr. A. Clarke thinks that almost any kind of a wife, if properly treated, is better than none. The text states a general and true doctrine in a simple proposition. Still, it must be admitted that a good wife may be considered a special blessing from Jehovah. Conant renders: “He found a wife he found good, and obtained favour from Jehovah.” The Septuagint adds another proverb: “He that puts away a good wife puts away a good thing; and he that keeps an adulteress is foolish and ungodly.”
23. The poor useth entreaties The verse may be regarded as stating a fact without any justification of the latter part of the statement. Compare Proverbs 14:21; Proverbs 17:5.
24. A man that hath friends… friendly This is a good proverb as it stands, taken in a duly qualified sense, but it is very doubtful whether our Authorized Version gives the sense of the first clause. There are many varying translations of it. That of the Speaker’s Commentary is as good as any: “A man of many companions is so to his own destruction;” or, as Holden renders, “Is ready to be ruined.” Gesenius gives the sense as being “to destroy or ruin one’s self.” This may be understood of the man’s finances or his morals. There is a kind of friendship that is very expensive to a man, and very injurious. It requires a great deal of his time and attention, and is exhibited and maintained by expensive feasts, parties, and visits. A man’s friends sometimes make exorbitant claims upon him in a business way, and, not unfrequently, to accommodate them he ruins himself. The latter clause of the proverb, as we have it, can scarcely be improved. It has probably no direct reference to the higher and best Friend, to whom it is sometimes applied; but it is not misplaced when used in an accommodated way of HIM who indeed sticketh closer than a brother. Miller, on the contrary, according to his theory, says, “Though there is [in the clause] a secular use referring to human friendships, yet they are but the shadow of the divine. All disappoint save that One closer love that cleaves to us when a brother fails us.” Proverbs 18:23-24: are not found in the Septuagint.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 18". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany